The weather was sweet, the venue was familiar and comfortable, and the bands were stellar: 2014 Decibel Magazine Tour stop at the Opera House in Toronto featuring Carcass, The Black Dahlia Murder, Gorguts and Noisem, April 8, 2014.
Review by Laura Wiebe
Photos by Adam Wills
We didn’t make it in time for Noisem (sorry to have missed you, guys!), but when Gorguts started to play there was no mental or aural space left to dwell on what we might have heard. Or really, what else we were to see and hear (part of the reason I have more to say about Gorguts’ performance than anything else).
Gorguts‘ performance began with a fair bit of sound tweaking and a roomful of atmosphere. Gorguts songs don’t make for good background music, and this becomes even more obvious but also more of an asset in a live setting. The band didn’t just demand full attention – they commanded it. While founder/guitarist/vocalist Luc Lemay positions himself off to the side (his predominant role doesn’t need visual emphasis), Colin Marston on bass occupies centre stage like a work of performance art. On his other side, Kevin Hufnagel headbangs erratically, beautifully in tandem with the complexity of his guitar work. And drummer
John Longstreth Patrice Hamelin provides a visual and rhythmic anchor for the whole. Moments of fascinating delicacy made the heavy that much heavier, and after dedicating final track “Obscura” to the pit (the first real talking Lemay did), Gorguts’ set climactically morphed into the sounds of loud and fervent appreciation.
The Black Dahlia Murder
The Black Dahlia Murder suffered (for me at least) from following Gorguts on this bill. Not that they were disappointing, but it’s hard not to seem a bit simplistic in comparison. Plus the bass drum was a little heavy in the mix, making the details of their songwriting and performance a tad hard to follow if you didn’t know what you were listening for. That said, their guitar solos were particularly enjoyable and entertaining. And frontman Trevor Strnad seems like he’s channelling a lyrical dancer hidden somewhere inside that heavy metal frame – which is a little odd but also oddly compelling.
And then it was time for the main event: Carcass. I saw Carcass perform at Noctis Festival in Calgary last September, and I was blown away, unsurprisingly. This time my expectations were met but not exceeded. I don’t think it was the band, though vocalist/bassist Jeff Walker did mention dealing with a cold. While the performances were excellent, the sound was a little muddier than I would have liked. And, to be honest, I wasn’t in prime form myself (by the time Carcass stepped on stage I had nearly lost my voice – not from screaming but from some sneaky throat-sabotaging virus).
Walker’s characteristic humour was in attendance, though there was a hint of vitriol, blamed on someone breaking the equipment that would have provided us with video projections. Bill Steer was as charismatic as ever on guitar, and newest/youngest members Daniel Wilding (drums) and Ben Ash (guitar) are thoroughly integrated into the band unit. The setlist was a satisfying mix of new and old, with the promised Swan Song material thrown in for good measure. And if I wasn’t stunned with overwhelming appreciation, I certainly left with a reaffirmed sense of Carcass’s importance and expertise.